Temples of Industry: How the Decline of Heavy Industry Shaped West LondonStart exploring the three factories
In the early 20th century, the West London landscape was transformed with industries setting up in Ealing and Hounslow.
The factories along the ‘Golden Mile’ of the Great West Road were modern and eye-catching, designed to help promote and advertise their products. They included well-known brands such as Trico windscreen wipers, Pyrene fire extinguishers, Jantzen American swimwear, Gillette and Coty. Land which was previously rural was used for the factory sites. A brand-new electricity plant as well as easy transportation access encouraged development.
Although each factory went through changes and the workers faced various challenges, for half a century manufacturing boomed. However, this was not to last and the 1980s and 1990s saw a steady decline with many of the factories closing.
Thanks to a grant from Historic England’s ‘Everyday Heritage’ fund, we have been working with volunteers to research and record the oral histories of those who worked at; A.E.C Southall, Trico Folberth and Firestone on the Great West Road.
Temples of Industry
This short film explores stories of the factories from the people who worked there.
Made by Protégé
Robert Singh, former employee, on starting at Trico in 1970
Now, being at school, living on your own I had to rent a room, so I needed some form of financial security and I thought to myself, ‘I wanted to continue with my studies’. I was 16 at the time, I had to go and find work. And, at that time, in late 1969 along the Great West Road you had what was called the Golden Mile, Gillettes, Firestone, Trico all those factories. I went to Firestone first and they interviewed me for a job, then I went to Trico. Firestone offered me a post and so did Trico, and I considered it but for some reason I just decided to go to Trico. And I will never forget when, after the interview, they said to me, ‘You can start on the Monday, bring your cup for your tea and your national insurance number if you have one’. So, I started on the Monday and this was in January 1970.
Inside the factory
Who were the workers?
The factories employed large numbers of “skilled”* and “unskilled”** workers on their shop floors. It was often quite easy to get work and could be done without the need for a CV. Assembly workers would be paid for each piece they assembled, rather than by the hour. The industrial boom in this part of West London attracted not only people all across England, but also from Wales, Ireland, and later Afro-Caribbean and South Asian migrant communities.
Good to know
**Unskilled work – often referred to as work that could be done with no experience. The necessary skills would be taught by other, more experienced, workers. The work was often repetitive such as packing and assembling products.
*Skilled work – refers to work that would need qualification. These roles would often have apprenticeships.
We do not believe that any work is unskilled or low skilled.
A Special Thank You
We're very grateful to everyone who contributed to this project
Ealing Local History Centre
Hounslow Local History and Archives
Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick
Protégé Young Filmmakers:
Historic England ‘Everyday Heritage’ Grant